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City People

A swing at a dream

After a month with the New York Yankees, John Ramos' throwing arm gave out. But he doesn't look back with regret.

By ROB BRANNON
Published November 28, 2003

NORTHEAST MACFARLANE - John Ramos' major league baseball statistics fill only a single line.

For the month of September in 1991, Ramos played for the New York Yankees, batting a strong .308 and showing a lot of promise.

But his baseball story stops there. There was no second season, no shot at stardom.

An injury to his throwing arm ended his major league career.

"You go from being a prospect and making it to the big leagues to being hurt and having a basically career-ending elbow surgery," he said.

The injury robbed Ramos, a catcher, of his former throwing strength. After years of returning pitches, he had stripped his elbow of its protective cartilage. Surgery helped, but the doctor's report was enough to scare away most teams.

Good batting allowed him to move around in the minor leagues, but he never got another chance at the majors.

Instead, his future would center on the knowledge and expertise he gained while studying during the off seasons.

Born in 1965 in Tampa, he was one of five boys. He excelled in baseball at an early age, said brother Vincent Ramos.

"He was hitting line drive home runs that just kept getting higher and higher," he said. "We were looking at him when he was 9 or 10 saying "Man, this guy's going to be somebody."'

Vincent Ramos recalls one game on a field with no fence in which Ramos hit a ball that seemed to fly forever.

"About the time the guys got the ball he was crossing home," he said. "It gives me goosebumps."

John Ramos, a standout baseball and football player, graduated from Plant High School in 1983. While at Plant, he won the Tony Saladino award given each year to the best baseball player in Hillsborough County. After graduation, he went west to Stanford University in California, where he met his future wife, Lisa.

In 1986, he was drafted by the Yankees and became a solid minor league prospect, starting his career in Fort Lauderdale. By the spring of 1992, he knew his elbow was in bad shape.

He continued playing until 1996, consistently hitting over .300. His elbow was always an issue.

"I was only about 80 percent, 50 percent of the time," Ramos said.

With two small children, Ramos decided it was time to return to Tampa.

"Everything is a blessing in disguise," Ramos said. "I was ready for a normal family life."

While Ramos had been playing baseball, he spent winters studying at the University of South Florida. By the time his baseball career ended, he held a master's degree in business.

"He doesn't want B's," Vincent said. "He wants A's. He's an A plus guy on everything."

In early 1997, Ramos combined his business knowledge with his brother Vincent's artistic talent to create Ramos Marble and Granite on N Armenia Avenue, near Columbus Drive. Their father, Wil Sr., had been in the stone industry and had some old contacts.

Over the years, the company has supplied materials for such high profile projects, as the Tampa Marriott Waterside and Raymond James Stadium, as well as for about 1,500 smaller projects. Ramos Marble and Granite boasts a large showroom and takes up an entire city block.

"They're very family-oriented people," said longtime employee Gail Graston.

Sports, she said, often become part of business discussions.

"Most of the time ... when we have meetings and stuff we end up with a sports analogy," Graston said.

In his free time, Ramos coaches his children in sports. When he looks back on his career, he has no regrets.

"I got my chance. I'm fortunate that I can look back and say, "Hey, I was a major league baseball player,"' he said.

Ramos doesn't rule out returning to the game. He loves coaching and has a desire to teach, he said. But for now, he is enjoying his family and his career.

"I try not to look at what could have been," Ramos said. "I look at what I accomplished."

- Rob Brannon can be reached at 226-3434 or rbrannon@sptimes.com

John Ramos

AGE: 38

HOME: Virginia Park.

FAMILY: Wife, Lisa; children, Nicholas, 10, and Victoria, 8.

GRADUATED: Plant High School, 1983.

BUSINESS: Ramos Marble and Granite.

DEGREE: Master's in business administration from the University of South Florida.

PLAYED FOR: New York Yankees.

PLAYED WITH: Bernie Williams, current Yankee center fielder, and Chris Weinke, who switched to football and now plays with the Carolina Panthers.

[Last modified November 26, 2003, 13:12:03]

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